The attention for applying design-oriented approaches in public administration has increased significantly. Applying design is seen as a promising way to deal with wicked problems and create more responsive policies and services. We aim to contribute to the debate on the value of design for public administration and the development of the latter into a design science by conducting a systematic literature review into the empirical applications of design. We analyse the goals, processes and outcomes of 92 empirical studies. Based upon this we distil six design approaches, varying from traditional scientific and informational approaches to innovative, user-driven and thus more ‘inspirational’ approaches. The more traditional (science-driven) approaches still dominate the field. The impact of these types of studies is correspondingly low. We argue that further developing and refining the whole range of design approaches can foster both the scientific rigour and the societal relevance of a design-oriented public administration.
There is increasing debate about the role that public policy research can play in identifying solutions to complex policy challenges. Most studies focus on describing and explaining how governance systems operate. However, some scholars argue that because current institutions are often not up to the task, researchers need to rethink this ‘bystander’ approach and engage in experimentation and interventions that can help to change and improve governance systems. This paper contributes to this discourse by developing a design science framework that integrates retrospective research (scientific validation) and prospective research (creative design). It illustrates the merits and challenges of doing this through two case studies in the Netherlands and concludes that a design science framework provides a way of integrating traditional validation-oriented research with intervention-oriented design approaches. We argue that working at the interface between them will create new opportunities for these complementary modes of public policy research to achieve impact.
Policy design is a type of policy formulation activity centred on knowledge application in the creation of policy alternatives. Expected to attain public sector goals and government ambitions in an effective fashion, it can be undertaken many different ways. The current literature on policy design features an ongoing debate between adherents of traditional approaches to the subject in the policy sciences and those importing into policymaking the insights of design practices in other fields such as industrial engineering and product development: ‘design-thinking’. Issues examined in more traditional approaches to policy design are very wide-ranging and address a wide variety of formulation modalities and their strengths and weaknesses. Efforts to promote ‘design-thinking’ in the public policy realm, on the other hand, focus on policy innovation and rarely deal with issues such as the barriers to implementation, political feasibility or the constraints under which decision-making takes place. This chapter discusses these differences and argues adherents of design-thinking need to expand their reach and consider not only the circumstances facilitating the generation of novel ideas but also the lessons of more traditional approaches concerning the political and other challenges faced in policy formulation and implementation.
There has been much debate about the contribution of ‘design thinking’ to the fields of public policy and governance. This chapter makes an empirical contribution to this debate by examining the Organised Crime Field Lab – an environment for experimenting with, learning about and innovating in collaborative governance. The study involved working with 18 different multi-agency collaborations involving over 160 professionals as they developed novel approaches to fighting organised crime. Combining quasi-experimental and action research methods, our analysis offers valuable insights into how an environment can be designed that creates the conditions to support collaborations in overcoming the most common challenges in their design process. In particular, we find that a specially designed environment including a structured but flexible problem-solving space, an inclusive facilitative process and a custom-made accountability structure can support collaborative design processes.
Policy design has returned to the centre of discussions of public policy, both for academics and practitioners. With that interest in policy design has come an interest in organisations and institutions that will do the designing, with much of the interest being in structures such as policy laboratories that attempt to foster innovation. These organisations tend to exist outside government hierarchies and support collaborative designing with stakeholders and citizens. This paper examines the potential of these structures from an organisational perspective. Although they do offer great promise as sources of innovation they also confront a number of institutional barriers and dilemmas. This paper focuses on those barriers and dilemmas, as well as some possible means of overcoming them.
In recent years, design approaches to policy-making have gained popularity among policy-makers. However, a critical reflection on their added value and on how contemporary ‘design-thinking’ approaches relates to the classical idea of public administration as a design science is still lacking. This introductory chapter reflects upon the use of design approaches in public administration. We delve into the more traditional ideas of design, as launched by Simon, and policy design, but also into the present-day design wave, stemming from traditional design sciences. Based upon this we distinguish between three ideal-type approaches of design currently characterizing the discipline: design as optimization; design as exploration; and design as co-creation. More rigorous empirical analyses of applications of these approaches is necessary to further develop public administration as a design science. We reflect upon the question how a more designerly way of thinking can help to improve public administration and public policy.
The chapter explores the potential benefits to public policy of combining traditional evaluative inquiry with insights developed dynamically in policy labs. Twenty leading labs from five continents are critically analysed through a literature review as well as policy and programme evaluation practices, assessing the extent to which the purpose, structures and processes used in policy labs address three challenges: (1) establishing the causality and value of public interventions, (2) explaining mechanisms of change, and (3) utilising research findings in public policy. The chapter concludes that creating synergies between evaluation inquiry and policy labs can improve the design and implementation of public policy and programmes.
Design approaches to policymaking have gained increasing popularity among policymakers in recent years.
First published as a special issue of Policy & Politics, this book presents original critical reflections on the value of design approaches and how they relate to the classical idea of public administration as a design science. Contributors consider the potential, challenges and applications of design approaches and distinguish between three methods currently characterising the discipline: design as optimisation, design as exploration and design as co-creation.
Developing the dialogue around public administration as a design science, this collection explores how a more ‘designerly’ way of thinking can improve public administration and public policy.
The articles on which Chapters 4, 5 and 6 are based are available Open Access under CC-BY-NC licence.
In this final chapter we reflect upon the application of more designerly, and thus creative or playful, ways of making policy, the ‘second face of public sector design’ (Clarke and Craft, 2018), how they relate to the more traditional forms of design, and what their pitfalls and promises are. Moreover, we reflect upon the consequences of this transition for the way in which public organizations should be designed and managed. In this chapter, we first sketch the potentials of designerly ways of making policies, as well as their pitfalls. We then reflect upon the relation between ‘old’ and ‘new’ approaches of policy design and the evolution we can witness. It seems that traditional and more recent approaches are combined or blended together in many ways.
In complex, shared-power settings, policymakers, administrators and other kinds of decision makers increasingly must engage in collaborative inter-organisational efforts to effectively address challenging public issues. These collaborations must be governed effectively if they are to achieve their public purposes. A design approach to the governance of collaborations can help, especially if it explicitly focuses on the design and use of formal and informal settings for dialogue and deliberation (forums), decision making (arenas) and resolution of residual disputes (courts). The success of a design approach will depend on many things, but especially on leaders and leadership and careful attention to the design and use of forums, arenas and courts and the effective use of power. The argument is illustrated by examining the emergence and governance of a collaboration designed to cope with the fragmented policy field of minority business support.